January 09, 2013 00:00 By Veena Thoopkrajae,
Supinya to ask NBTC to verify broadcaster's claim that 'Nua Mek 2' episodes broke law; Thaksin's son says show should be aired
Adding to the public pressure on Channel 3 over its controversial decision to drop the “Nua Mek 2” television series, the broadcaster was urged at a Bangkok seminar yesterday to send the unaired episodes of the show to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to verify that its content violated broadcasting regulations, as Channel 3 claims.
Critics have alleged that powerful figures ordered “Nua Mek 2” to be scrapped because of its apparent parodying of politicians.
NBTC member Supinya Klangnarong told the seminar, held at Chulalongkorn University’s Communication Arts Faculty, that she would propose that Channel 3 allow the commission to see the censored episodes of “Nua Mek 2” to determine whether they really breached Section 37 of the NBTC Act.
Her proposal received loud applause from the several hundred media representatives, students and members of the public in attendance.
Supinya said she disagreed with the unnecessary citing of Section 37. “The NBTC has never used Section 37 to ban any media, and we try not to abuse freedoms by over-exercising the law, which can create a climate of fear,” she said.
“Nua Mek 2” (Above the Clouds 2) was abruptly pulled from the air last Friday, raising questions regarding freedom of speech and media censorship.
Pheu Thai Party spokesman Promphong Nopparit called on Channel 3 to make clear its stance over the self-censorship and called on it to broadcast the three episodes. Pulling athe show “yields no benefits to the [Pheu Thai-led government], while [bringing vilification on] the coalition leader and on [former prime minister and de-facto Pheu Thai leader] Thaksin Shinawatra,” he said.
A group calling itself Soap Opera Lovers has vowed to rally on Monday in front of Channel 3's headquarters on Rama IV Road in protest at the scrapping of the show.
Suwanna Sombatraksasuk, former president of the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, told the seminar she didn’t watch the series when it aired, but after the ban, she went and watched eight “Nua Mek 2” episodes and didn’t find any content breaching Section 37.
Supaporn Phokaew, head of the Mass Communications Department at Chula’s Faculty of Communication Arts, said the ban was a blow to the audience’s freedom to interpret what they watch on TV. “If entertainment content is banned, what hope do we have with other forms of truth-finding in society?” she asked.
The seminar did not spell out any conclusions, but it was agreed that the NBTC and the public would join forces in discovering the facts about the case.
The Thai Constitution Protection Association yesterday called for an investigation into the sudden removal of “Nua Mek 2”. Members of the association led by president Nantawat Praropkul and secretary-general Srisuwan Janya petitioned to both the NBTC and the Consumer Protection Board.
Srisuwan said that within seven days, the agencies must take action against Channel 3, or the association would lodge a complaint with the Central Administrative Court.
The banning of the show by Bangkok Entertainment Co – the operator of Channel 3 – constituted an infringement of people’s freedom under Articles 45 and 46 of the Constitution and breached Section 61 of the Consumer Protection Act, Srisuwan said.
In the petitions, the NBTC is asked to order Channel 3 to broadcast the banned episodes of controversial drama during its former prime-time slot. The final episodes must not be edited or rearranged. The watchdog is also asked to fine Channel 3 for violating the consumer-rights law.
On Facebook, Thaksin’s son Panthongtae yesterday described the series as a thinly veiled attack on his family, but nonetheless urged Channel 3 to broadcast the final episodes, despite the fact that the series unfairly caused damage to real people who could easily be linked to the series’ fictional characters.
In his Facebook message, Panthongtae claimed Channel 3 stood to benefit from its decision to suddenly pull “Nua Mek 2” off air.
“The key message of the series has already been conveyed to the public. The last few episodes will hardly add anything new,” he said. “Removing it now will just make the government the culprit in the eyes of the public.”
Channel 3’s PR manager Borisut Buranasamrit said yesterday, “Our officials have found that the content of these episodes is inappropriate. We believe in their judgement.”
Borisut said Channel 3 held the rights to the TV series and definitely would not release its final episodes via any other media, such as by uploading them on YouTube or distributing them as CDs.
He said his station was ready to explain its decision to the NBTC.